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JARHEAD

Welcome To The Production
Location shooting in the original setting where Swofford found himself in 1990 was never an option, so filmmakers searched for venues to stand in for a variety of locales where the main action of Jarhead takes place. Filming began on the soundstages of Universal Studios; principal photography would end almost exactly five months later in the desert of Glamis, California.

"One of the great ironies of the movie,” notes Mendes, "was that the filming of it lasted five months…which is exactly the length of time the soldiers in Tony's story were in the desert together.”

The first location work took place on George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. Closed during the BRAC (Base Reassignment and Closure) movement of the early 1990s, the sprawling facility still houses military operations and is temporary residence for personnel in transit to more permanent assignments.

One of the scenes shot there depicts troops loading into planes for the flight to the Gulf. On the morning of the filming, real military planes carrying U.S. troops landed near the 747 being boarded by Jarhead's simulated soldiers. There was some mingling between the movie extras and military personnel, each curious about the business that the other would imminently embark upon—along with an acknowledgement that only one 747 would be leaving the tarmac. The chance encounter allowed everyone involved an opportunity to try on a new perspective—if only for a moment—and view his own job from another point of view. Most involved in the production came away with a new appreciation of the world to which they were returning at the end of the day's shoot.

George Air Force Base is currently owned by the city of Victorville, which is working in concert with a group of developers to transform it into a mixed-used facility offering private housing and shopping. Though it is still being used for some training and transport, the U.S. military no longer has a say over who utilizes the property. The Jarhead production was a welcomed visitor.

In any re-creating historical event—rather one person's perspective of the time—film production runs the risk of either constructing a museum piece or modifying the story and/or setting to fit with current attitudes and mores. Neither choice was acceptable to the Jarhead filmmakers and cast, who were committed to filmically depicting Swofford's personal experiences.

One of the unique challenges for the production team was in the re-creation of scenes showing military action. The Gulf War was uniquely apparatus-driven (none of which would be provided to the movie by a cooperating military), and despite the perception that it had been "covered” by the media, it was a war in which few were familiar with the actual details of what occurred on the ground and one that failed to impart any strong imagery. "With any work that tries to be accurate in its depictions, there's the risk of getting every detail right and yet missing the spirit,” says Wick. "We took great care in the details. We had military experts like Sergeant Major James Dever, one of the world's best production designers in Dennis Gassner and one of the top costume designers in Albert Wolsky. But ultimately, the goal was to re-create the spirit.”

The director says, "These Marines were put through very extreme experiences in 1990. They were subjected to intense training and then shipped off to this moonscape that is the desert—which had the effect of making them feel absolutely and utterly out of touch with the world but, perhaps, more in touch with themselves. And the movie is filled with moments in which they act out what they think the war might be, or how they should be when it starts, or what they might do and what they might say. But the reality is that it's unlike anything they ever expected. They have a boy's idea of what war is. The one thing I can guarantee you—even though I've never been to wa

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